E3) Floodplain monitoring

Wimala van Iersel

“Finding innovative methods to monitor floodplain vegetation and waterbodies, of which the results can be linked to ecosystem services of floodplains”

Practical motivation

Riverine floodplains are important for hydrodynamics, ecology, and socio-economics. This variety of functions can be assessed within the framework of ecosystem services. Some fluvial ecosystem services can be computed based on landscape ecological units, such as ecotopes. However, the ecosystem services vary with spatial and temporal scale, and should be documented properly documented and mapped. Currently, there is no ecotope classification at a comprehensive multi-temporal scale and no multi-scale monitoring methods exist that can automate mapping of ecotopes. Further need for monitoring arises from the flood reduction measures that are currently implemented, which lead to a high spatio-temporal variability of the ecotope distribution. From the perspective of the current river management, our methods will provide an integrated, multiscale monitoring toolbox which will serve river managers and planners alike.

Management goals: River ecosystems understanding |

Management phase: Implementation & Monitoring |

Examples of the different data types used to monitor vegetation in this study. Study area is Breemwaard floodplain along the River Waal. (Source: Wimala van Iersel).

Research aim

The main scientific challenge is to determine a multiscale ecotope classification that can be linked to the fluvial ecosystem services, and that can be monitored using remote sensing data. The aim of this research is:

  • To explore different types of remote sensing data acquired at various spatial scales and from different platforms, ranging from mobile terrestrial, via airborne, to spaceborne.
  • To explore temporal aspects of vegetation development, such as phenology and succession to be included in the ecotope classification.

Temporal scale: Seasonal measurements |


  • A multi-temporal field study in the Breemwaard floodplain uses unmanned airborne vehicle (UAV) imagery to obtain accurate temporal height profiles of low floodplain vegetation over the growing season.
  • To up-scale the region of interest to a river reach of 100+ km, we use data from spaceborne platforms. We focus on high spatial resolution multispectral data and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data.
  • We are collecting data from multi-parameter stations along the River IJssel to relate existing measurements at gauging stations along the Rhine branches with local continuous monitoring of abiotic conditions of floodplain waterbodies.

Data-collection methods: Field survey measurements | Remote sensing |

Main progress and next steps

  • The usage of multi-temporal data from UAVs greatly improved classification accuracies of grassland and herbaceous vegetation classes in floodplains. Input data contributing most to the classification accuracy are the spectral and vegetation height layers covering the extremes of the vegetation phenology.
  • Most classification errors occurred in classes without seasonal changes, such as water and paved surfaces. In addition, confusion between natural and production grassland remained. This may be resolved by using thematic data on management of these grassland areas, but preferably this may be resolved by fine-tuning the classification method.
  • However, monitoring the floodplains large catchments with UAV imagery is an impossible task. Therefore, the main next step will be to up-scale the region of interest to a river reach of 100+ km.

Study areas

Key study areas: Waal River (The Netherlands)

Last modified: 17/06/2018

Main researcher

Wimala van Iersel

Suvervisory team

Menno Straatsma


dr. Elisabeth Addink


prof. dr. Hans Midelkoop


Contributing partners

Rijkswaterstaat Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

National Institute for Public Healthe and the Enviroment. Minsty of Health, Welfare and Sport.

ARCADIS Nederland BV

Bureau Waardenburg BV


Radboud University Nijmegen

University of Twente

Utrecht University

NWO Applied and Engineering Sciences

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Featured Outputs

Monitoring height and greenness of non-woody floodplain vegetation with UAV time series

12/06/2018 by Wimala van Iersel et al.

Contains: Data repository upon request Journal publication

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Other outputs

Jump to: Conference abstract |

Conference abstract





Best poster award of Nederlands Aardwetenschappelijk congres April 7-8 2016.



Rivercare floodplain


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Project group
Project E

Contact details

Wimala van Iersel

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